The BPS Interview
9th August 2017
What is/was your full time occupation?
I spent over 8 years in the Royal Navy as an electrical engineer covering electronics, radio and radar. Most of the rest of my life I have been in office equipment sales mostly concerned with printing and presentation materials.
When did you first become interested in photography?
I was about age 12 when my Father bought me an Coronet camera as a reward for doing well at school and moving up a grade.
Is there a photographer that inspired and influenced you and would you have liked to have been able to spent a day with?
Yes, David Penprase, a Cornish photographer specialising in a very unique art style of portraiture.
Is there one photograph by anyone in the past that you especially admire?
Yes, there are in fact two. One is the Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry. Her eyes are the thing, they just grab you and suck you in, it is one of the finest portrayals of emotion I have ever seen.
The second is the Vietnamese “Napalm Girl” running along the road taken in Trang Bang by Pullitzer Prize Winning Nick Ut. Her name is Kim Phúc and it tells of the worst of humanity in a way words cannot.
By Huynh Cong Ut (also known as Nick Ut)
What was your first camera and how did you come to buy it?
The Coronet box camera made by The Coronet Camera Company which operated from Aston in Birmingham from 1926 until 1967.Then in the Navy came a Practica 35mm film camera. These were affordable and rugged cameras. They used the Pentax lens screw thread and so the lenses were interchangeable.
Which camera have you owned that you have a special affection for?
It was a Rollieflex 2000 which used 35mm film. It had a dual viewfinder where you could either look down on it or through it in the normal way. It handled like a medium format camera. The lens quality was excellent and it was a pleasure to hold.
What is your current camera(s) and lens(es) set up and how long have you had it?
I have two main cameras, a Canon 650D and an EOS 1DS Mk II (From my wedding photography days)
I have a few lenses. A Samyang 14mm f 2.8, Sigma 30mm f 1.4, Canon 50mm 1.4, Sigma 18 – 50mm f 2.8, Sigma 24mm f 2.8, Canon 10 – 18mm and 18 – 55mm and 55 – 250mm. I also have a Canon 1.4x converter. My lenses are all different ages.
What is your typical kit set up for a day out?
For general pick up and go I use the Canon 650D with the Sigma 18 – 50mm.
What camera would you currently like to own if it was possible?
A Fujifilm X-Pro 2 with an 18 – 55mm lens.
Do you find it difficult to resist the temptation to buy the latest equipment?
No, not really. Economics dictate my equipment.
Do you have a particular number of genres that you favour and concentrate on?
People. I like to capture the character of people especially those where the hands or face tell a story.
Is there just one favourite photograph that you have taken which you are really proud of and why?
It’s a picture I took in Bristol of a young girl playing on a water feature. She was touching the water with her hand and I think it tells a story. It needs time to study it but I have made part of the image monochrome and left the rest colour. I really like the feeling of a transition from one dimension to another.
Have there been any amusing or memorable incidents when taking photographs?
Things are always happening at weddings. Children would play up and adults would refuse to stand or sit next to certain other family members. There were frequent fights and garment malfunctions.
Is there a difficult image that you would still like to capture?
I want to do more slow shutter speed work and also I would love to do some theatre and stage work as my main area of interest is lighting.
What made you start to work towards obtaining photographic awards and distinctions?
I would like to have started to get LRPS Distinction but time working has always been against me. Maybe one day eventually.
Did anyone help and influence you on the way to attaining your goals?
I did a photography correspondence course in the Navy which helped. Bill Chambers had a big impact on me with his contagious enthusiasm. Also, ex-member Mark Pinfield was always trying something different (although not always appreciated) but thinking outside the box has been a great help to me.
Are there any tips you can pass on to members considering starting on the path to an award?
Make the effort and start by submitting images to the monthly competitions as well as try the national competitions. The judges critique is very useful as is the Society’s Critique Group. Also, use the advice of experienced members of the Society. Visit the Smethwick Exhibitions , we are so fortunate to have them just twenty minute’s up the M5 to learn what images are currently succeeding. Be inspired.
What computer, monitor and editing software do you use?
I have a PC Tower and a 24” Acer monitor. I use Photoshop CC which includes Lightroom. I also take an interest in Apps for my Android tablet which I am really taking to.
Do you do your own printing, if so what printer do you use?
Very rarely. I have an Epson Stylus R1900 A3+ size printer which takes 8 cartridges. However, I mainly use DS Colour Labs for colour prints.
What was the best picture you failed to get and why?
I was in Canon Hill Park in Birmingham and I had my camera with me but the battery was flat. There was a large pond at the end of the lake and it had a “No Fishing” sign stuck in the water. On it was sitting a Heron. Was I upset? Absolutely.
Another time I was at a model session and I switched off auto focus because the light was poor and it was hunting too much. When we moved on to an area with better lighting I forgot to go back to auto focus and didn’t realise. I spent the rest of the night taking out of focus images.
If you were a professional photographer for a day, who/what and where would you like to photograph?
I would like to cover London Fashion Week for a magazine with all the professional equipment and assistants. I would love to do that.
What do people say about photography that makes your hackles rise?
Any form of criticism as I hate it when it’s aimed at me.
What piece of photographic wisdom would you like to share with BPS members?
Spare memory cards and charged batteries. Pay attention to composition, it’s important.
Do you have a photographic philosophy that keeps you going?
You are forever chasing that “magic” image. You get closer all the time and eventually you will capture it. As an example note “The Afghan Girl”.